1) Should the O's go after free agents?
Isaac Barrow: As I stated in my recent "O's fans will hate me for this, but....", I think the O's shouldn't. Not only can we not whip out the big bucks like the Yanks can, a free agent with a name like Mark Teixiera, A.J. Burnett, Jon Garland, etc. don't say, "Hey, I'm a free agent. I want to go to a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1997!"
Also, if we were to get Teixeira, he'd make almost one fifth of what the team makes now. And historically, we are awful when it comes to signing free agents. Also, Burnett and Garland are high-risk, high rewards.
Garland won't likely repeat what he did with the White Sox and was the weak link in a dominant Angels rotation in 2007. Garland does have high stock, and we will have to out pay teams, which, let's face it, we can't do. If the O's look towards free agency, they're going to have to look cheap. Also, we would be defeating the rebuilding purpose by spending the big bucks.
Burnett can be a very dominant pitcher (over 200 K's this year) but is injured every other year. We also tried to get him at the deadline two seasons ago, and he refused, so what makes you think he has a change of heart now? As much as I'd love to have Tex here, I don't see it. I see Tex signing with the Yankees or Mets, the typical place.
Chad Lamasa: Of course the O's should go after free agents. The only problem is we will have to overpay for anyone. Once a culture of losing has been established, it takes a lot for a guy to want to come here. Teixeira is the one I would go after; he's a hometown guy and better than what we have at 1B right now in Millar. Huff could continue to be DH after the season he had this year. If there are any solid SS out there, we should go after one of them as well.
Lawrence Barreca: Yes, the O's should at least pursue one free agent. Some names include Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, A.J. Burnett, etc. Many fans will say the same name: Mark Teixeira.
I will not disagree with the fans here, but he will undoubtedly come at a price. He is expecting a large contract, and he has Scott Boras as his agent, two things that the O's don't like to see. So should the O's look somewhere else?
A few more names that may begin to pop up as the Winter Meetings begin are Cleveland Indians' first baseman Ryan Garko, Rangers' third baseman Hank Blalock, or maybe even a trade involving Brewers' first baseman Prince Fielder (Fielder would come at a high asking-price, making him an unlikely candidate for the Orioles). Let's evaluate these names for a second.
Ryan Garko hit .273 with 14 home runs and 90 RBI last season, not bad numbers. However, I believe that the O's want a bit more power in the cleanup spot, plus Garko would have to be traded for, losing some potential prospects in the process. Hank Blalock may be the hidden answer. Hank hit .287, with 12 homers and 38 RBI in only 258 at-bats.
Sure, Blalock is also considered an "injury-prone player," but I believe that a move from the "hot corner" over to first base might just be the change he needs to stay healthy for an entire season. I guess only time will tell what the O's will do to fill this hole in the order.
Zachary Ball: I agree, the O's should go after some bats and some quality arms. Specifically, I would love to see MacPhail aggressively go after Tex. I think we have a 25 percent chance of getting him.
For Burnett, I think the number drops to 15 percent. I think pitching for a team with a decent shot at the playoffs would be more enticing than coming home to Baltimore. I wouldn't touch Garland with a 10-foot pole. He has low strikeout numbers, a higher-than-average ERA, and has benefited from playing with a high-scoring offense. I don't think Baltimore provides that last one.
I like the idea of Garko, but I just don't see him playing full-time if he comes here, and the last thing we need is another bench guy who takes time away from younger guys like Nolan Reimold and Lou Montanez.
One route I think the O's should consider going that doesn't involve free agency is a possible trade. I would personally love to see the O's make a play for Matt Holliday from the Rockies. Colorado is shopping him, and he would be a perfect fit for us. He plays left field and would fit nicely into the middle of the lineup. Do I think the O's will do any of this though? Not real likely.
Kevin Paul: Yes, they should go after free agents - if they are players that fit MacPhail's plan. I'm talking about younger players. I wouldn't go and waste a ton of money on the top-of-the-rotation starters, but more a few role guys that can fill in the slots, and maybe help teach the younger guys that are eventually coming up, such as Matusz, Arrieta, and Tillman. I do expect Angelos to make a run at Teixeira - he has a severe man crush on him, and first base is enough of a need that MacPhail may be OK with the move.
2) How long should we re-sign stars (Markakis, Jones, Guthrie)?
Isaac Barrow: I agree mostly with what Lawrence said. I agree we need to sign Markakis and Guthrie to long-term deals. However, I'd like to see Adam Jones for about how long Roberts is, maybe a three to five-year deal. Jones is getting better and better each day and is a true rising star as an outfielder. I expect a power surge from him, either this year or next.
I agree Markakis might get angry if Jones is signed first, so I'd wrap up Markakis first. While Jones is a huge part of the O's in the future, Markakis is a bigger one. So, yes, I think we sign Roberts for four seasons, Jones for five, and Markakis for five. Roberts for only four, because despite being a force to be reckoned with, he's older than most on the club.
I'd like to get rid of most of the vets on the club, except Roberts. In short, Jones: five years, Markakis: six years, Roberts: four years.
Chad Lamasa: The three you mention we should wrap up for the next five to six years. They can be cornerstones of the organization and definitely worth building around. Markakis was unhappy with his raise this season, so they definitely need to give him what he wants. Jones, I believe, is still under contract though, so we shouldn't have to worry about that. Guthrie is the best pitcher we have and need to make sure he stays here for a while.
Lawrence Barreca: Now let's move to the second topic: Signing the rising stars. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, both drafted by the O's, have been keys to the Orioles' success, not only through batting but through defense and speed as well. These are the reasons why these two players should be extended as soon as possible.
The last thing that I want to see as a fan is Markakis or Roberts getting dealt or angry due to contract problems. Brian Roberts should at least receive a three to five-year deal, with Markakis receiving a deal anywhere from five to 10 years.
Other people have inquired about signing Adam Jones, the now 23-year-old center fielder, who is expected to be an All-Star caliber player in the future. I say this: How do you believe that Nick would feel if a player who has played on the squad for one season gets a contract extension before he was even considered?
My final take is this: Sign Guthrie to a three-plus-year deal, Markakis, and Roberts. Simple.
Zachary Ball: The O's should extend deals to all three, and throw in Brian Roberts, too. Roberts is what makes this team go. I would give "Nick the Stick" anywhere from a five to seven-year deal. Jones gets a three to five-year deal. Roberts gets a three-year deal. I'd extend Guthrie for at least a three-year deal. Locking up these four gives the O's a solid nucleus to add some free agents and some young prospects to.
Kevin Paul: Well, the O's have Jones for a while, but Markakis should be resigned for five or six years, I would guess off the top of my head. He's the face of the franchise, and just going to get better - and he's already one of the better young OF's in the game. Overlook the arbitration and give him a major deal. Roberts too, resign him... tough to replace his 2B play, leadoff abilities, talent, and personality.
3) Whom should the O's draft this year?
Isaac Barrow: As much as I like Juan Castro as a fielder, the guy is not the future of the Baltimore Orioles. He hit .193 on the year, with two home runs and 16 RBI. While he made some strides at times, he shouldn't be our shortstop in five seasons. Grant Green may be too good for us. Grant Green, a USC shortstop, should go No. 3 overall. If we have to trade up to get him, so be it.
Since Cal Ripken, Jr. moved to third base, our shortstops can be described in two words: no bodies! We've had the likes of Deivi Cruz, Mike Bordick, Juan Castro, Luis Hernandez, Alex Cintron, and others I probably don't remember because they most likely left baseball after they played for us.
There is also Aaron Crow, the guy from Missouri who was 13-0 with a 2.35 earned run average last year. He is hard to sign though, as the Nats offered him big money last year and he didn't sign. If I'm the Orioles, I do everything possible to nab us some Grant Green.
Chad Lamasa: I have no idea who we should draft. I never hear about these guys until they are in our system. As far as positions go, we need a SS and some pitching.
Lawrence Barreca: Now, let's take a peek at next year's draft. Brian Matusz was the prize of last year's draft, being picked No. 4 overall. Baltimore is expected to have another high pick this year, their first selection coming at No. 5. Whom should the O's choose?
Below is a list of the top players in the 2009 draft according to draftinfo.wordpress.com:
1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State
2. Dustin Ackley, 1b/OF, North Carolina
3. Grant Green, SS, USC
4. Donovan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS, Georgia
5. Alex White, RHP, North Carolina
6. Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats (Independent Leagues)
7. Matt Purke, LHP, Klein HS, Texas
8. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri
9. Kentrail Davis, OF, Tennessee
10. Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Veijo, California
From this list, my best bet would be either Aaron Crow or Grant Green. Crow, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted by the Nationals last season; however, he was never signed, throwing him right back into the draft pool for '09. He features a mid-90s fastball, a good sinker, a "devastating" slider, and a good changeup.
He is said to have a mechanics problem, though, but if he pans out, he is expected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
As all O's fans know, the shortstop position is a must-need. This is where Grant Green may come into play. Here is how draftinfo.wordpress.com describes him: "Green has exploded the last year, especially this summer in the Cape Cod League. He has an above average arm with good accuracy and above average range as well. At the plate is where he thrives. He handles the bat very well and his discipline is sensational. He has above average power right now, but that will probably increase as he develops."
A power-hitting SS may be the exact thing that the O's need to fill that gaping hole on the left side of the diamond.
Zachary Ball: Baseball America released their mock draft of the first 10 picks a couple of weeks ago and they have the O's taking righty Tyler Matzek from California. Clearly, I would love to see Grant Green fall to the O's, but barring a mess of a season from him, I don't see that happening.
Alex White from UNC is a stud. I would love to snag him, but again, he too might be gone by the time the O's pick at No. 5. The O's spent several picks on college pitchers (Brian Matusz, Oliver Drake, Richard Zagone) last year and the year before (Jake Arrieta, Tim Bascom).
I think they can afford to spend this pick on the best high schooler they can find, which leads me back to Matzek. He is a flamethrower who has an easily repeatable delivery. He was the top pitcher at almost every high school showcase this past year and has a very VERY high upside. I'd be happy with him at No. 5...or Grant Green.
Kevin Paul: Draft the best on the table. Middle infield talent is a need, but you can never have enough pitching either. Draft the best left.
Isaac Barrow: In his first season in Professional Baseball, Wieters had 27 home runs, 91 RBI, a .355 batting average, and an OPS above one. He also hit nearly .400 with runners in scoring position. Because of that, he garnered a Minor League Player of the Year.
I think we start him next year over Ramon Hernandez. Ramon is nicknamed "Bum" and "Rally Killer" on fan forums. I was sure to take out the expletives. Matt is nicknamed "The Future" or "Stud". Tough decision. People might say "We don't want to rush the future!" However, it defeats the purpose of rebuilding if you bench the rookie.
Chad Lamasa: He did well in the minors this year and was surprised he didn't get called up in September for a tryout. I think he will compete with Ramon in Spring Training and will probably beat him out for the starting job, but I'm not sure we should just christian him the starter. He needs to earn it.
Lawrence Barreca: In his first full season in the minors (between Single-A and Double-A), Wieters hit .355 with 27 homers and 91 RBI. Not too shabby for a prospect getting his first taste of pro ball.
Hopefully, Matt will be in the competition for the starting catcher's job on the O's during Spring Training, because his bat should provide a boost for what has been known as a relatively weak lineup. Honestly, I believe that Wieters will start off in Triple-A, unless he greatly impresses the O's coaching staff.
Zachary Ball: Simple answer. Come opening day, Matt Wieters should be behind the plate catching fastballs from Jeremy Guthrie. What does he have left to accomplish in the minors? Everybody I've heard analyze his game says he could have succeeded at the major-league level LAST YEAR. If he can hit upwards of .250 with 15+ home runs, I don't see why to make him waste more of his time in the minors.
Kevin Paul: Take the Markakis approach on Wieters. Let him battle for the position in the spring. They weren't expecting Markakis to win the job yet, but he forced their hand. If Wieters doesn't do that, put him in AAA, and have a patchwork catcher available 'til he's ready.
5) Where do the O's put Brian Matusz next year?
Isaac Barrow: Matusz has impressed me so far. Before this Arizona Fall League stint, I was thinking Matusz was destined for Aberdeen. He has been impressive so far, with one win, one loss, a 3.60 ERA, and 10 strikeouts. Not bad for a 21-year-old who has never pitched pro ball.
Right now, I'm thinking he is destined to be a Frederick Key. He will be paired up with Wally Crancer, who was a glimmer of light in the dark compared to Matt Wieters as far as O's catchers go.
Chad Lamasa: Audition him in Spring Training and see if he can make the club. If not, let him develop in the minors. If he plays winter ball during the offseason, he may have a better shot of making the bigs in the spring. Not sure if he's going to or not though.
Lawrence Barreca: Now, to Brian Matusz. As said earlier, Matusz was the No. 4 overall pick in last year's draft, and there is a solid reason why. Matusz is said to have a "wicked" curveball, even though he does not have full control of his pitches just yet. Some scouts believe that Brian could end up being a front-of-the-rotation guy, maybe even taking a speedy route to the pros (like David Price in Tampa Bay).
I expect Matusz to begin in Single-A and gradually make his way to the pros sometime either late this season or early next year.
Zachary Ball: I think Matusz SHOULD take the same route that David Price took. They SHOULD start him at Double-A Bowie, see how he does, possibly move him up to Norfolk in August or so, then give him a spot in the bullpen to finish out the year.
That said, the O's WILL start him at Frederick and maybe move him to Bowie at the All-Star break. Unless he blows everyone away, I don't see him finishing the season any higher than Bowie. Sad, but true.
Kevin Paul: I would take the same approach on Matusz that the Rays did on David Price, which is start him at Single A, like you do any other prospect, and see how long he needs to be there. I believe Price only lasted six starts and then was moved up.
6) Whom should the O's deal?
Isaac Barrow: I think you have to look at what the other teams offer. If you can get quality starting pitching, I wouldn't mind trading anyone except Guthrie, Markakis, and Jones. My preferences would be to trade Ramon (see question No. 4). It also will open up a spot for Matt Wieters.
I also want Luke Scott out. As much as I liked him in the beginning of the year, he doesn't really serve a purpose. He can hit 20/50/.250, but what good does that do the team? As long as we get starting pitching in return, I don't care who we trade for.
Chad Lamasa: We should only trade people if we can get quality back for them. Don't trade anyone for the sake of trading them. B-Rob could bring back the most in return. I'd hate to see him go, but if it would make the team better, then do it. I don't see us getting much in return for anyone else other than Markakis, Jones, and Guthrie, and as I said, they are guys to build around.
Lawrence Barreca: The only players that the O's should deal are Ramon Hernandez and/or Melvin Mora.
Zachary Ball: I agree with Isaac. That all depends on what anyone is willing to give us. I would deal B-Rob for the right set of prospects. I would GLADLY deal Ramon, if anyone would take him. I would love to see Scott and Payton go.
Kevin Paul: Yes, if the deals are right, and we can max the amount received for players, then trade them. Examples are Huff and Hernandez, especially Hernandez if you can get anyone for him. If the O's can't resign Roberts, then deal him too.
I like Millar, I'd keep him. I think Huff could net us a decent prospect or two. If we could get a decent shortstop for any of them I would seriously consider it.
Before publishing this, I'd like to thank Chad Lamasa and Lawrence Barreca. Most of all, I'd like to thank Rory Davis. If not for him, I wouldn't be able to be writing this right now and be the O's CL. I'd also like to thank Zachary Ball and Kevin Paul for his recent contributions to the Round Table and his continuous contributions to the Orioles section on B/R as a whole.